After the recent U.S. election, our church supported the Safety Pin movement. We handed out Safety Pins and encouraged people to wear them as a symbol of solidarity. The pin says, “I will be a safe place for others. Whatever your religion, race, immigration status, sexual orientation, political affiliation or other, you are safe with me.”
One congregant asked, “Is it okay to stick mean people with the pins?”
I laughed and said, “What do you think?”
Many others embraced the pin – we circulated over 800 of them.
But some opposed the pin. Not so much in our church, but on social media. One article, called “Dear White People,” said it was wrong to wear the pin. It described the practice as a passive gesture to help us feel good about ourselves without really accomplishing anything of value.
This anti-pin article is compelling. The author provides a link that offer things we can do to help people in ways he deems more useful. I respect this author for his opinion and his passion.
I still choose to promote the pin.
- The Safety Pin humbles me:
I was taught to respect all people. Then I think of that door in the Museum of Tolerance, a door with a sign that asks people to enter if they are not prejudiced.
People try. But the door is locked. No one can enter.
The point is we all have prejudices. These prejudices may be unconscious; they may manifest as micro-aggressions towards others. Wearing the pin humbles me. It helps me recognize that I am not above prejudice. It exposes my unconscious intolerance. Wearing the pin, I ask, “Where do I unknowingly hurt people with my attitudes, agendas, and actions?”
- The Safety Pin inspires “rich and noble” ties:
As I look at my own micro-aggressions, it’s not about rabid intolerance. It’s more about laziness and avoidance. I’m shy with others, especially if I suspect we have little in common.
The pin nudges me to connect with people beyond my comfort clique.
- The Safety Pin helps me consider cause.
There is not one organization, politician, or religion that causes bigotry. Hatred has been with us forever. Hatred, bigotry, violence and other absurdities share a root cause that transcends time, space, personality, ideology and more.
The safety pin reminds me to look beneath the multiplicity of outer manifestations of hatred and consider a single root cause – fear, borne of ignorance.
Why is this important?
- Because naming root cause leads to root cure.
Naming fear as the cause behind hatred changes my response-ability. I will strive to respond to fear with the opposite of the problem. I will strive to respond with love.
Objectors will say “That’s ridiculous. We need to stand up to racists and stop them.”
But Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
And we cannot drive out their fear with our fear.
We’ve tried. It doesn’t work. It isn’t sustainable.
Instead we stand in love – not a wimpy love, but a love that insists on itself – a love that listens, a love that sees possibilities beyond positions, a love that is strong enough to be humble, a love that aligns us with the truth of good-for-all.
The pin reminds me to pray: “Dear Love, I barely understand the fullness of your grace. But please help me. I want to stop acting out of fear. I am willing to be vulnerable. I am willing to serve. Love, how shall I serve Love with greater love?”
A true answer will always involve more love, not less.
- The Safety Pin illuminates our shared virtue.
A moment ago, I wrote that the root cause of hatred is fear borne out of ignorance. “Ignorance of what?” you might ask.
Ignorance of our true nature. We forget that we are an interconnected organism called One Life.
Because we are one, underneath all differences, we share more than we know.
This video sent to me by a congregant helped me see the commonality beneath surface disagreements.
The video and the pin help me remember that we have much in common. The agenda we hold most in common is the urgency of love. We need to love and be loved. We need to see love, claim love, teach love and champion love. We need to talk about love because the news media rarely covers love.
And because the news won’t cover love, we have to cover love – and let love cover us – because we are love.
- The Safety Pin offers children and others a way to participate.
Not everyone is equipped to protest or call their elected officials. But everyone can help and all help matters.
The day we handed out safety pins in our Center, I witnessed a young mom and her son at the back of the church sorting through the safety pins to find the ones they wanted. I knew this mom would teach her son about kindness, and saying no to bullies, and protecting others.
They give me hope.
- The Safety Pin helps one person.
In the debate about the legitimacy of the Safety Pin as a change agent, I admit, I was concerned that wearing a pin could be insulting. Then I had a conversation that changed everything. I spoke with “John,” a gay friend who grew up in the seventies. I asked him, “Are you pro-pin?”
He said, “I wish there had been Safety Pins when I was in High School. I could have used a safe place.”
I threw up my hands in a gesture of surrender and said, “That’s it. End of story. If I can help one person by wearing a pin, then I’ve accomplished something.”
It’s true. The intimate, infinite ripples of positive change do not stop with me. They start with me. They start with all of us.
In this post, I’ve given a lot of power to Safety Pins. In my life, I’ve given a lot of power to haters. In the realm of Absolute Reality where power is perception, the pin and the haters have as much power as we give them… That’s something to ponder.
Where will you invest your power?
Going back to the congregant who asked if it was okay to stick our pins into mean people….
I won’t advocate literal pin-violence, but maybe we could visualize a hater, an organization, or an ideology as a balloon –a really big balloon like something out of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.
We see the balloon, filled with hot air. We name it fear. Then we stick a pin in it. We watch its bloated nothingness disappear.
It’s a metaphor: A pin is a symbol for truth, inner transformation, and inspired acts of loving kindness. A pin can deflate and defeat huge, scary things. A pin (i.e. love) can create miracles when we empower it.
I’m giving my power to the pin and all it stands for. I’ll back up that power with conscious action. I hope you will too. Happy Thanksgiving.